Seeker Friendly

I guess I don’t normally think of God as a seeker. Maybe that’s because I think of seekers as needing something and I don’t think of God as in need of anything. But while God has no need of anything, there are some things He desires. This morning I read of something the Father seeks. Of something that He’s actively pursuing–something, in a sense, He craves. Something, go figure, that I can provide.

“But the hour is coming, and is now here, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for the Father is seeking such people to worship Him.”   ~ Jesus

(John 4:23 ESV)

God is a seeker. And He seeks true worshipers to worship Him.

The woman tried to debate the Lord Jesus on the form of worship (John 4:19)– was it after the way of the Samaritans on Mt. Gerizim or more along the way of the Jews at Jerusalem. But Jesus didn’t engage in that conversation. He was more interested in the function of worship. The “where” and “what” of worship were secondary to the “how” and “heart” of worship. True worship, said Jesus, was worship offered in spirit and truth.

Authentic worship isn’t tied to the externals of rite and ceremony, but is sourced in the authenticity and sincerity of the inner man. Real worship is less about going through the motions than it is about something moving in and through us. Offerings sourced in the heart and then finding expression as the “sacrifice of praise to God, that is, the fruit of lips that acknowledge His name” (Heb. 13:15). True worship is worship in spirit.

True worship is also worship founded on truth, Jesus said. Not in shadows or types, which is what Jerusalem worship offered, but in the substance which those shadows and types pointed to. Yes, it is to be worship based upon sacrifice, but not the shed blood of lambs or goats. Instead, it’s to be adoration in response to the shed blood of the Lamb of God, come to take away the sin of the world.

What’s more, worship in truth is not worship offered from afar, carried by another into some cordoned off holy place. Rather, the worship God desires is to be personally, and transparently, brought before the throne of a thrice holy God by those declared to be believer priests, having been cleansed of their sin and robed in righteousness, through the power of the gospel. Able to bring their own offerings, as it were, into the very holy of holies, through the One who is the Way, the Truth, and the Life (John 14:6). Worship in truth is direct access worship.

People who worship in spirit. People who worship in truth. The Father seeks such people, true worshipers, to worship Him.

And so, in a sense, God is a seeker. And I ask myself, does God find in me what He’s looking for?

Am I Seeker friendly?

Oh, that my offerings would be sincere. That they would be sourced in thoughtful consideration of the One  I desire to worship. That they would be heartfelt. Brought with fervor before the One who is worthy of mindful and intentional sacrifices of praise. That I would resist slipping into an autopilot slumber with my thanksgiving. But that, instead, my worship would be the fruit of fully-engaged adoration–an expression of loving Him with all my heart, all my soul, and all my mind.

That my offerings would be grounded in His word and His ways, enabled and powered by His Spirt. That I would resist the temptation to improvise and bring before the altar that which seems right to me. Rather, that my worship would be a response to the grace and truth found in the Savior. That the cross would ever be my “permission” to boldly approach the God who lives in unapproachable light.

Seeker friendly. That’s what I want to be.

By His grace. For His glory.

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Wearied As He Was

Talk about your encounter of the divine kind. One on one with God incarnate. Learning about living water. Being offered springs that well up to eternal life. Finding out, up close and personal, what it’s like to encounter omniscience. Discovering there’s no changing the conversation, yet being so intrigued you’re not sure you want to. Realizing there’s no place to hide, but somehow sensing that, with this Man, it was still safe to be fully known. Wanting to talk about Messiah in theory and then being told that the One you’re debating theology with is Him. Mind-blowing! That’s what Jesus’ encounter with the Samaritan women is, it’s mind-blowing!

But my “wow factor” this morning came not from the wondrous way Jesus made Himself known to this woman, but the why of their encounter in the first place. Jesus was weary.

He left Judea and departed again for Galilee. And He had to pass through Samaria. So He came to a town of Samaria called Sychar, near the field that Jacob had given to his son Joseph. Jacobs well was there; so Jesus, wearied as He was from His journey, was sitting beside the well. It was about the sixth hour. There came a woman of Samaria to draw water. . .

(John 4:3-7 ESV)

Jesus, wearied as He was from His journey, sat by the well. Chew on that for bit.

He who was in the beginning with God, being God, was weary. He who is the Creator, having made all things, was tired. The One who is the radiance of God’s glory, the exact imprint of His nature, able to uphold the universe by the power of His word, was exhausted–having run out of gas. The eternal Intercessor who stands at the right hand of God, had to sit down by a well. Fatigued, He just wanted a bit of water for Himself.

What was it for Jesus, the Son of God, to take on flesh? To be born in the likeness of men? To let go of His “God form” and be found in human form? To divest Himself of His glory and humble Himself? To be wearied as He was?

I get the concept of Immanuel, God with us. But I don’t know that I can fully appreciate what it was for God to become man in order that man might be reconciled with God.

It was necessary so that He might taste death for all of Adam’s race who owe a debt they cannot pay. Necessary that the Righteous give His life in exchange for the unrighteous. But beyond that, flesh was more than just a form that Jesus needed to take on in order to achieve a goal. With it came all the feelings and experiences that go with being a mere mortal. Wearied as He was, He sat down and asked for a glass of water.

Therefore He had to be made like His brothers in every respect, so that He might become a merciful and faithful high priest in the service of God, . . . For we do not have a High Priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, . . .

(Hebrews 2:17a, 4:15a ESV)

Wearied as He was, He thirsted. And He would shed tears at a friend’s death. And He would know physical pain. And He would be subject to shame. And He would experience the reality of being forsaken. And He would be humbled to the point of death, even death on a cross. It’s all a reminder of what the Son of God entered into that He might make known God’s love for us.

O what a Savior!

And because He faithfully endured, wearied as He was, we can too. Our thirst satisfied by His living water. Our weakness empowered by His indwelling Spirit. Our weariness revived by His forever promises.

Wearied as He was, He loved us.

Wearied as we might be, we love Him.

By His grace. For His glory.

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The Right Umbrella (a re-run)

I’m up in B.C. for a couple of days. Getting in my grandkids fix and enjoying an early Thanksgiving, Canadian style (you know, eating beaver and such).

Morning devo time is kind of limited but as I read this morning I was reminded that our lives are but a mist. In a way, didn’t need the word to remind me of that–there’s a lot in my reality which testifies to it every day. But our “mist” only exists because we have a Maker. And not some distant cosmic force, but a self-revealing caring Father. Intimately aware of the fleeting nature of our lives, yet providing a freedom which allows us to make choices about how it’s lived. And thus we would do well to heed James exhortation to make a few small words a big part of our vocabulary. Here are some thoughts on those four simple words from a few years ago.

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It’s a good reminder. Every time I come across it when reading James, it causes me to pause and reflect, and remember, and relive the truth that we “do not know what tomorrow will bring.” And so, says James, it’s so important to put our plans under the right umbrella.

Come now, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will go into such and such a town and spend a year there and trade and make a profit”—yet you do not know what tomorrow will bring. What is your life? For you are a mist that appears for a little time and then vanishes. Instead you ought to say, “If the Lord wills, we will live and do this or that.”

(James 4:13-15 ESV)

The problem isn’t that we have plans . . . it’s that we lose perspective. We set our course but forget that God establishes our steps (Prov. 16:9). And so we’re surprised when things don’t turn out as we thought they would . . . or they take a turn we never anticipated . . . or we find ourselves out-of-balance because “our will be done” has become our de facto operating mode.

But if we were to heed . . . rather, if I were to heed James’ exhortation more consistently, how much would that help in putting the right things in their right place?

If all my plans . . . all my ambitions . . . all my desires were under the umbrella of “If the Lord wills” . . . how much freedom and balance would that create?

First, I’m recognizing that, when all is said and done, it’s all about the Lord’s will. It’s about His plans . . . His purposes . . . what He seeks to accomplish . . . all about His glory. My plans are placed within the context of all that I know He has purposed. I don’t want anything on my “to do” list that isn’t on His. I don’t want any of my priorities to trump that which He has already let me know are on His “top ten.” And then, when my plans play out . . . because it was in His will . . . He gets all the glory and praise.

Second, my life is lived under the reality of the great “if.” I don’t know what tomorrow will bring, or even if there will be a tomorrow. I am but a mist that appears for a little time. Thus, I am to hold things loosely. And I’m to live, by His grace, in such a way that at the end of the day, if there be no tomorrow, there is a contentment and a confidence (not an arrogance) that I have done today under the umbrella of His will.

Four simple words that I would do well to add to the end of more of my sentences. Four single-syllable words that place my life on earth within the grander scheme of His work in heaven.

“If the Lord wills.” That’s the right umbrella.

Living under His grace . . . living for His glory.

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Now, time for grandkids and beaver . . . if the Lord wills.

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Wisdom Without Works

I wonder if, in our modern culture, our default isn’t to gauge the measure of wisdom a person has by what they know. That we want to hear what someone has to say in order to discern how wise they are. That classic picture (I’m probably dating myself . . . again!) of climbing a mountain in order to hear from the guru who has figured out the secret to life, comes to mind. His understanding of life, we think, apparent by the utterance from his lips. But James portrays a different measure of wisdom. One that is based not on what is heard, but on what is seen. Not on what someone says they know, but on how that knowledge manifests itself in how they live.

Who is wise and understanding among you? By his good conduct let him show his works in the meekness of wisdom.

(James 3:13 ESV)

Just like faith, wisdom without works is dead. When what is known about God isn’t seen in how we live for God, then it’s useless knowledge. When the fruit of the Spirit is but something we memorize and not something we manifest, it’s just dead data. So James says, in effect, show me your wisdom by telling me what you know, and I’ll tell you what I know by showing you how I live.

Your life is marked by “bitter jealousy” and “selfish ambition”? Then don’t’ tell anybody you know something about the truth of life (3:14). That’s the evidence of worldly wisdom, of horizontal understanding, of earthly ignorance. And it can only bear the fruit of confusion and disorder. It is ultimately the genesis of “every vile practice” (3:16). Sound as wise as you want, but if you live for yourself above others, then it’s not the stuff of the celestial, its the way of the terrestrial. Not wisdom from above, it’s fake wisdom from below.

But the wisdom from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, open to reason, full of mercy and good fruits, impartial and sincere. And a harvest of righteousness is sown in peace by those who make peace.

(James 3:17-18 ESV)

No mention there of the platitudes one might give assent to. Not about the creed they can recite, or the confession of faith they claim to espouse. But true wisdom from heaven is demonstrated by how we really walk on earth.

Marked by purity, seasoned by the sacred. Jazzed by that which brings peace and not division, being motivated to heal rather than hurt, valuing reconciliation over recognition.

Mild in temperament, though strong in conviction. Ready to yield and open to reason, in order to gain common understanding.

Overflowing with mercy and kindness. Welcoming others as Christ has welcomed us (Rom. 15:7). Serving others as Christ has served us (Mark 10:45).

Sincere. Without duplicity or hypocrisy. Not playing favorites, but straight up with all people.

Those who live in such a way speak volumes, without uttering a word, by how they interact with others. Other-worldly in their behavior, it reveals something of their beliefs. Marching to the beat of a heavenly drum, they show by how they live, the truths they know.

And in their wake, they leave a harvest of righteousness sown in peace.

That’s wisdom. That’s the art of skillful living. Seen in our actions, not just heard in our words.

Made possible by God’s grace. To be pursued ardently for God’s glory.

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Filling Jars and Seeing the Glory

The glory was manifest that day. And while the disciples had front row seats, what’s capturing my thoughts are the no-name servants who were actually “on stage” as part of the drama. So this morning, I’m thinking about the connection between filling jars and seeing the glory.

Jesus had RSVP’d in the affirmative . . . with a +12! His disciples would also accompany Him. They all would attend the wedding at Cana in Galilee. They would all hear of things going south as the wine vats were going dry. And they would all look on as mom whispered to Jesus, “Please do something!”

Though it wasn’t yet “His hour”, the Creator of the process that made it possible for water to fall onto soil, release nutrients that could then be absorbed by a vine, which, in turn, would produce grapes, which could then be made into wine, this Creator consented to bypass the natural so that His glory might be manifest. But the disciples weren’t the only ones who would see the miracle.

His mother said to the servants, “Do whatever He tells you.” Now there were six stone water jars there for the Jewish rites of purification, each holding twenty or thirty gallons. Jesus said to the servants, “Fill the jars with water.” And they filled them up to the brim. And He said to them, “Now draw some out and take it to the master of the feast.” So they took it. When the master of the feast tasted the water now become wine, and did not know where it came from (though the servants who had drawn the water knew), the master of the feast called the bridegroom . . .

(John 2:5-9 ESV)

The servants were pretty much nobodies. They were at the wedding only to do the bidding of others. To take commands and perform them. But though the invited guests wouldn’t know where it came from; though the master of the feast couldn’t figure out how such quality beverage had been held back for so long; though even the bridegroom had no idea how this new wine (which made what he had brought seem like the cheap stuff) had appeared on the tables, the nobodies who had drawn the water knew. Along with the disciples, they were eye-witnesses to the glory manifested.

And I’m thinking about the connection between serving Jesus and seeing the glory.

Though the task might seem insignificant–“Fill the jars with water” . . . “Dip some out and take it to the M.C.” . . . “Do whatever He tells you”–though others have no idea what we’re doing for Him, the very fact that He’s speaking to us and we’re listening to Him sets the stage for seeing the glory.

Proximity to Deity always has the potential to deliver on awe. Though we might rarely see the kingdom connection with our ordinary acts of obedience, when, on occasion, He graciously permits us to see the plain water we poured in, come out as the exceptional wine He’s chosen to make apart from “due process”, then we see the glory. The bit part He’s asked us to play in the drama puts us in a position to see the story unfold from the closest of vantage points. Because we were there, though we were unseen, we get to see what many miss–the glory manifested.

I would rather be a gatekeeper in the house of my God
than live the good life in the homes of the wicked.

(Psalm 84:10 NLT)

A doorkeeper in the palace gets to see the King every so often. A servant of the Master is privileged with an insider’s view of the Master’s business. And a filler of jars might, on occasion, be the presenter of a fine wine that blesses others. The Source of which few even recognize. But the servant beholds the glory manifested.

According to the Master’s grace. Always for the Master’s glory.

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Come and See

Three words caught my attention this morning. Ten letters jumped off the page. And as I chewed on them I wondered if they hadn’t been food for a morning meal before. Sure enough, they were food for thought back in 2009. Encouraged today by what I wrote back then. Thought I ‘d “re-plate” those thoughts a bit and serve them up again . . .

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Wrapping up the first chapter of John’s gospel this morning. And as I’m reading about Jesus’ encounter with Nathanael it occurs to me that there may lie within the story an all encompassing principle for getting to know Jesus . . . Come and see.

John 1:43-51 starts out with a bunch of “finding.” Jesus found Philip and says to him, “Follow Me.” Then Philip found Nathanael. And Philip says to Nathaniel, “We have found Him of whom Moses in the Law and also the prophets wrote, Jesus of Nazareth, the son of Joseph.” (That’s probably a devotion in itself, who found who? But that will be for another time.)

But Nathanael isn’t so quick to go find Jesus . . . or be found by Jesus . . . or whatever. Instead, Nathanael says, “Hold on. You found the One Moses and the Prophets foretold? You found Messiah? And He’s Jesus of Nazareth? Can anything good come out of Nazareth?”

Some would say that Nathanael’s objection or skepticism was because Nazareth isn’t mentioned in the Old Testament in connection with the Messiah. In fact, as near as I can see, it isn’t mentioned in the OT at all. Maybe Nathanael’s thinking, “No way, not from Nazareth. Messiah will hail from Bethlehem.” Others say the objection is based on the fact that Nazareth didn’t have a very good reputation. It was the “other side of the tracks”, the rougher part of town. Nothing useful or beneficial could come out of a place like Nazareth–certainly not Jehovah’s Anointed One.

Whatever the reason for Nathanael’s hesitation, he wasn’t about to join Philip and become part of the “I Found It” movement.

But it’s Philip’s response to Nathanael that has me thinking.

Philip said to him, “Come and see.”     (John 1:46b ESV)

Come and see. How brilliant is that?

Philip didn’t try to engage Nathanael in debate. Wasn’t interested in defending Nazareth as a good place for Messiah to hail from. He resisted any temptation to scold Nathanael for being a skeptic. Instead he just said, “Come and see.”

“Check it out for yourself,” Philip says in essence, “Come meet Him. Talk with Him. Learn about Him. See Him in action. And then decide.”

And that, it would seem, is at least one of the reasons why Nathanael is included in the gospel narrative–to give us the “come and see” approach to knowing Jesus. After this encounter, Nathanael is mentioned only one other time at the end of John as being with Peter and some others when they encountered the risen Christ on the beach after a fruitless night of fishing.

And I can’t help but think that this come and see way of knowing Jesus isn’t just for the non-Christian skeptic, it’s for me too. That sometimes I may need to recognize when skepticism is impacting my walk of faith. Times when I might be over thinking things, or under believing His claims.

Through Christ I can do all things? Really? Come and see.

His grace is sufficient and His power is manifest in my weakness? How can that be? Come and see.

God will supply all my needs according to His riches in glory in Christ? Come on, get real! No, you come and see how real it really is.

And it’s not just about claiming His promises, I think it’s also true for knowing Him more intimately. Can I really know Him? Really abide in Him? Open the door of my heart and sup with Him? Can I really? Yeah you can, come and see.

It seems to me that’s kind of what faith is all about. Not necessarily having it all figured out, but being willing to come and see. To approach the throne of grace and see if we won’t find help in time of need. Even when we feel inadequate to approach a holy God, humbling coming to Him as Abba Father, and seeing if He doesn’t envelope us with the assurance of His love for us.

We may not have all the answers . . . maybe not even many of the questions . . . but will we hear Jesus saying to us, “Come and see”?

And then, will we?  Come and see?

By His grace, for His glory.

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My Mirror

I stand in front of it every morning. It’s an important tool to make sure the part in my hair is straight (mostly), that I don’t shred my face shaving (usually), and that the hair growing out of my ears isn’t too bushy (normally). But it’s not just because I stand in front of it that it benefits me. It’s because I pause long enough to look at myself in it. To see and straighten the crooked part, to watch carefully the blade as it scrapes over my skin, to take action when the hair that was once on top of my head tries to escape out the sides. It’s my mirror . . . and I’m thankful for it.

But it would do me no good if I had it in front of me but didn’t take notice of what it revealed to me. If I just quickly glanced in it but walked away doing nothing and forgetting what I saw.

It’s my mirror.  And, this morning, it’s James’ object lesson.

But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves. For if anyone is a hearer of the word and not a doer, he is like a man who looks intently at his natural face in a mirror. For he looks at himself and goes away and at once forgets what he was like. But the one who looks into the perfect law, the law of liberty, and perseveres, being no hearer who forgets but a doer who acts, he will be blessed in his doing.

(James 1:22-25 ESV)

If there are three words that could be used to summarize the letter James wrote, they might be “Keeping It Real!” Practical advice being served up for those saved by grace apart from good works that they might live in grace for good works. Redeemed and regenerated through the finished work of the cross that they might walk in a manner reflective of the power of the cross. Sealed by the Spirit that they might walk in the Spirit thus bearing the fruit of the Spirit. Keeping it real . . . that’s what James is talking about.

And an important provision for living out the kingdom while still in the suburbs, for being so heavenly minded that we can’t help but be of earthly good, is the word of God. James refers to it as the perfect law.  As the law of liberty, setting us free from the bonds of sin, self, and the seduction of the world. Freeing us to pursue righteousness; to live for others; and to say no to the ways of a culture tangled in darkness.

But like a mirror, even if we place ourselves before the Word on a regular basis, if we don’t look into it, if we don’t take note of what it reveals, if we merely and mindlessly interact with it and then walk away, it does us no good. Or, as James says, if we’re hearing it only but not doing it, then we’re kidding ourselves about being followers of Christ.

Anyone who knows me knows I’m all about Bible reading plans. They know I love to be engaged in Bible studies. But I’m reminded this morning that daily readings and group considerations of the Scripture have no benefit if I’m not really looking in the mirror.

If I’m just engaging with facts that I already know . . .or thinking of truths that someone else should be taking to heart . . . or just putting in time thinking that the study of the word is an end in itself and not a means towards something else . . . then I’m that guy who gets in front of the mirror but doesn’t look at what it reveals about him. Who walks way forgetting, or never really knowing in the first place, what he looks like. And so his mirror, his Bible, really does him no good and he’s just fooling himself.

Instead, when I open the Word, I should be reading through it intently, meditating upon it purposefully, gazing into it inquisitively, expecting that which is God-breathed to reflect something of who I am, or who I am called to be, and to take action as needed. To persevere, says the ESV, being aware of what I’ve seen in the mirror, determining, by His grace and through the Spirit’s power, to respond accordingly and take action as necessary. To be a doer of the Word, and not a hearer only.

Thanking God this morning for my Mirror. And for the One who has provided it–that I might fix the crooked part, avoid being cut by the sharp edge, and deal with the reoccurring demons of lobe-covering.

Now, I just need to gaze into it, see my reality reflected by it, and act upon it.

By His grace. For His glory.

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